“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” ~ John H. Kennell, MD
Throughout history women have always supported and nurtured other women during birth. The word doula means “woman who serves” in ancient Greek, and that is exactly what doulas do. A doula is a trained professional who supports women in having positive and safe birth experiences. Doulas encourage a birth experience in which you are calm, focused, and capable of making wise choices for you and your baby. Hiring a doula is a vital step in creating a supportive birth environment.
Studies show that women who work with doulas have improved birth outcomes and are less inclined to need unnecessary interventions. With the support of doulas, many birthing people are able to forgo pain medication, avoid cesareans, have shorter labors, and feel more empowered about their birthing experience.
So What Does a Doula Do?
Provide continuous emotional and physical support.
Use hands-on comfort measures, such as massage, acupressure, and counter-pressure (there is nothing like a good hip-squeeze in labor).
Make suggestions for various positions conducive to different phases of labor.
Encourage deep breathing and relaxation.
They become the protectors of your birthing space, making sure that the lights are kept low, voices are quiet and your every need is met.
Teach you how to advocate for yourself during labor, birth, and postpartum. Doulas can act as a translator when it comes to navigating the hospital system and proposed interventions.
Provide up-to-date information about your childbirth options, so that you can make informed decisions about your body and your baby.
Provide continuity of care. It can be comforting to have a familiar face by your side, especially if you are birthing in the hospital and navigating shift changes and a rotating call shift of providers.
Most doulas will provide you with an opportunity to meet prenatally in order to build a relationship of trust and receive further education about how to best prepare for your birth. During these meetings you can discuss your priorities and any fears or concerns you may have regarding your birth. One of the awesome bonuses of doula services is access to
community resources for pregnancy or other family support. Doulas know where it’s at when it comes to additional support. If you are looking for an acupuncturist, lactation consultant, or a great prenatal massage, your doula will have the hook up.
What is the Difference Between a Doula and a Midwife?
A midwife is a trained medical professional whose primary focus is on ensuring the safety of the mother and child throughout the pregnancy, birth and postpartum. In addition to providing women with emotional support and education, midwives perform clinical skills such as checking the mother’s vitals (blood pressure, pulse, temperature) and monitoring the baby’s heart rate. Midwives are also trained to suture, administer IVs and medications, as well as handle complications that arise during the birth.
A doula on the other hand, is a non-clinical birth coach who provides continuous emotional, physical, and informational support before, during, and after the birth of your child. A doula is not a medical professional and does not give medical advice. Doula services do not include medical tasks such as cervical exams, checking blood pressure, or monitoring the baby’s heart rate and growth. That great thing about doulas is that you have their undivided care and attention. While a midwife needs to focus on clinical tasks, a doula’s main role is to support you and your experience.
How Do Doulas and Partners Work Together?
If you are partnered, rest assured that your doula will not be taking the place of your partner. Your doula works together with your partner to support you during your labor. We have all heard the expression that it takes a village to raise a child. I believe that it also takes a village to support a woman through the transformative rite of passage that is birth. Your doula may be the one who is massaging your back while your partner is holding your hand and encouraging you. Your doula is there to help your partner feel confident in supporting you.
Doulas also create an opportunity for partners to take breaks, use the bathroom, or grab a snack, without the laboring mother being left alone. A good doula teaches your partner all of the tips and tricks that she knows about birth so that your partner can learn how to best support you during your birth. The doula’s goal is to help foster a deeper connection between the birthing mother and her partner because at the end of the day this is your experience.
So How Do You Know That You Have Found the Right Doula For You?
Your doula is someone that you can easily connect with and instills a sense of growing confidence within you. Most importantly, make sure that you feel comfortable with your doula. Your doula is someone who will be joining you for the most intimate, intense, and amazing experience of your life. It’s important that you feel completely at ease around her.
Benefits of a Doula: From the Parents
During labor itself, (our doula) was a calming presence. She helped us understand that everything was progressing normally and naturally, and because of her guidance, I was able to labor at home as long as possible, which is what I wanted. Baby was born, without drugs/interventions, less than an hour after arriving at the hospital! At one of the most intense points of my labor, her calming voice and presence allowed me to fall asleep between contractions! I think this really helped me conserve my strength for later on. - Marian
When my wife told me that she wanted to get a Doula to help with the birth, I was supportive, because, well, you support your pregnant wife. But I wasn't sure I understood why we would need an extra person there, since we were pretty happy with the hospital where we were delivering (St Luke's) and had taken some birthing classes and, well, people have been doing this for years, why do we need to hire someone additional to help? Well, in the end, I don't see how I could have done it without (our doula). And I mean "I", the father, with the easy half of the job. My wife relied on her through the whole process as an advisor, and stress relief. However in the end, as things got complex, stressful, and exhausting, I was at the end of my rope (my wife was already well beyond the end of hers) and (our doula) was there for us, helping to keep things together, and keep us as comfortable as possible. That was an amazing relief for me, since I was very tired… I'll spare you the details, but the takeaway for dads to be was: If you are confused about the need for a doula, or uncomfortable with the doula you are selecting, fix that. It's important. - Travis
Did you hire a doula for your birth? What was your experience like? I would love to hear from you in the comments.